Adios dear lovely Jerry Lane

Jerry Lane 2009 in front of his Book Stop opened 1979 (photo by Richard Pipes for ABQ Journal)

Alaina Mencinger, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

Tue, October 4, 2022 at 9:59 PM·4 min read

Oct. 4—Book Stop owner Jerry Lane often had a stack of books that weren’t for sale. When the bookseller came across a book that he thought someone would like, he’d set it aside and, oftentimes, gift it to them for free.

“He was generous,” said private bookseller Ed Ripp. “He wanted good books in people’s hands.”

A lover of murder mysteries, Lane was the “patriarch” of Albuquerque bookselling, said Mark Holmen, owner of BookMark and organizer for the Albuquerque Book Fair. Lane died Sept. 23 after a year of declining health, according to Ripp. He was 78.

“He was as nice a guy as any of us have ever met,” said Nick Potter, who owns Nicholas Potter Books in Santa Fe. “He was generous of heart and spirit on so many levels.”

They became friends just after Lane opened his used book store, and although their businesses were in different cities, they were both frequent visitors at each other’s shops.

Lane once gave him a paperback copy of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Potter said.

“It was a fiction book that did raise my spirits, and I passed it on to a friend who was in the hospital that needed their spirits raised,” Potter said.

The pair eventually tracked down the movie version and watched it.

“When you interacted with Jerry, you were better off for it,” Potter said.

Lane was born on Feb. 8, 1944 in San Diego, California. He didn’t always work in books; the businessman served in the Air Force for several years, Ripp said. Later, he owned a coffee shop in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, before becoming a traveling gift-card salesman. Lane moved to Tucson in 1973, where he was introduced to the book trade by Laurie Allen, who owned a Book Stop location in Tucson and helped Lane open his own store opened in Albuquerque. Lane opened the bookstore in 1979.

Ripp met Lane soon after Chicago native Ripp moved to Albuquerque in 2009. When the beer boom hit the city several years ago, Ripp and Lane tried out new bars every week. Ripp, a fan of craft beers, said he gained 15 pounds that year.

Rachel Hess worked for Lane for five years in the mid-1980s. She said he could talk to anyone about anything. Eventually, Lane pushed her to open her own bookstore — which she did in 1989.

“He had a habit of helping his competition,” Hess said. “He told me ‘Rachel, it’s time to open your space and spread your own wings.'”

Lane gave Hess a wall of bookshelves to start Rachel’s Books. She was one of several former employees of Lane who went on to open their own bookstores. Hess has since closed the bookstore after having her third child.

Although Lane originally opened Book Stop in Nob Hill, the bookstore had many homes over the years. Book Stop finally landed in a spot on Washington and Lomas, before Lane closed the brick-and-mortar in 2015. But Lane later reopened at 1512 Girard NE over a year ago, with a sign that reads to this day “open by appointment or chance.”

Potter said the essence of the store never changed.

“I think the change was more the address than the business,” Potter said. “I think Jerry was consistent in the books he wanted to handle: good books with fair prices.”

Ripp said that in the 13 years he knew Lane, Lane’s store changed location about five times. Every time, he carried his own books to the new location. And, every few months, Lane would haul a truck full of unsold books to donate to a library in California — not an easy feat, Ripp said.

“I’ve been lifting and shifting books for 30 years, it’s not fun,” Ripp said.

Lane had a good sense of humor, and never stayed cross for long.

“He was a great storyteller, joke teller — such a positive person,” Potter said. “He just stood for good things as far as I was concerned.”

A man once stole a book from Book Stop, Potter said. Lane went running after the man; although he was unsuccessful, the incident was covered by the local news, and a witness described an “old man running after him.” Potter said that Lane thought the description was hilarious.

“He was a fixture on the book scene here,” Ripp said. “He was a force for good and the type of bookseller he was is a dying breed.”

A private memorial is planned for late October.

Lane is survived by a sister in California.

“The bookselling world in Albuquerque and the world at large are much smaller places with Jerry’s passing,” Ripp said. “… He was a beloved man, and I’m gonna miss him terribly.”

The Changing Face of Retail (2013)

By John Fleck / Journal Staff Writer

“I own more books than I could practically sell before I die,” said Jerry Lane, owner of the Book Stop, an Albuquerque institution that keeps shrinking as the world of retail keeps changing. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Allen Osborn drifted into the Book Stop on Friday afternoon with purpose, but no hurry. In the little book shop, in an old strip mall near Washington and Lomas NE, hurry would seem out of place.

Jerry Lane, the store’s 69-year-old proprietor, thinks a proper book shop is the sort of place where a customer walking in off the street will find a respectable collection of the works of Ernest Hemingway. Back on the fiction shelves, you’ll find seven titles, including two copies each of “The Sun Also Rises” and “The Old Man and the Sea.”

It also needs serendipity, which is why Osborn, a regular, was there. He headed to the back, to Lane’s military history section, looking for new arrivals on Marine Corps history. He figures he has about a thousand volumes on the subject at home, and is always looking for more. Online shopping is all well and good, but there’s really nothing like browsing a bookstore, Osborn said: “It’s like a treasure hunt.”

Lane is a canny survivor of what a friend of mine who thinks about urban economics called “the hollowing out of the merchant class.”

At its peak in the early 1980s, the Book Stop occupied what had once been the old Ben Franklin dime store on Route 66 in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood. It had 25,000 to 30,000 books on the shelves, filled 5,500 square feet of floor space, employed seven or eight people and was open until 9 p.m.

By the time I arrived in Albuquerque in 1990, Lane had already moved to a new space nearby, adjacent to what became the Flying Star coffee shop and restaurant. Together, they became a quintessential example of what sociologists call a “third place” – neither home nor work, but an alternative community gathering place. As a business model, the coffee shop-book shop synergy was hard to beat.

“It wasn’t quite a license to print money,” Lane recalled, “but it was close.”

Over the years, though, the market began changing, and I’ve followed Lane since as the Book Stop moved through a collection of successively smaller storefronts that led earlier this year to his new digs on Washington.

The current shop is down to 1,800 square feet, between 7,000 and 8,000 books, and just Lane keeping what he described as “gentleman book rancher’s hours,” Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.

According the U.S. Census Bureau, retail employment in Albuquerque declined 15 percent from 2007 to 2012. We don’t have 2013 numbers yet, but the latest numbers from the state of New Mexico suggest the downward trend continues.

Part of that decline is the cumulative impact of the Great Recession, which has hit Albuquerque especially hard. A Brookings Institution analysis of the 100 largest metro areas in the country ranked Albuquerque 99th in the country in post-recession job recovery. By nearly every measure analyzed by the Brookings team – employment, unemployment, gross economic output and housing prices – we are among the worst metro areas in the country.

But part of the change reflected in the retail employment numbers, what my friend called “the hollowing out,” is deeper – a fundamental change in the way we shop.

My colleague Leslie Linthicum last year chronicled the sad end of Langell’s, a beloved art supply store where Georgia O’Keeffe and Wilson Hurley bought supplies, but where owner John Langell’s brick-and-mortar costs meant he couldn’t keep up with online discounters.

Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter most famously explained what is going on here when he described what has come to be known as “creative destruction” – a burst of innovation that overtakes old with new.

Thus buggy whips and the things that went with them, however fine, were rendered useless by the invention of the automobile, and we travelers were the better for it but the buggy whip makers were not.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re in the buggy whip business,” Lane said, “and you want to say to people, ‘But they’re good buggy whips!’”

The benefits of online shopping are enormous, creating the significant benefit that is driving this change. I buy some books online.

Lane himself sees benefits. Even as online shopping leaves fewer and fewer brick-and-mortar book shops, Internet selling means he can connect with customers who never would have found him otherwise. But it’s not the same.

Osborn didn’t find any Marine Corps books but didn’t seem to mind. And while I’m not partial to Hemingway, I stumbled onto John Baxter’s “Dividing New Mexico’s Waters,” a 1997 University of New Mexico Press history of water law and management in our state from 1700 to 1912. I hadn’t gone to the Book Stop hunting treasure, but treasure it was.

I reached for my wallet, but Lane refused my money.

“I own more books,” he had said earlier during an afternoon of conversation, “than I could practically sell before I die.”